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Compost is an essential component of urban gardening.  The Garden of Union runs a large  (14 ton annually) system in cooperation with the Park Slope Food Coop. Claudia Joseph has been the site coordinator since 2005.  The bins were designed and constructed by Open Road NY.  This compost system is open to all members. To join the Garden of Union visit: www.thegardenofunion.com

The Old Stone House  partnered with Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2009 to construct 3 mega-bins at MS 51,.  We use these for our annual pumpkin smash and in cooperation with restaurants as a study for the MS 51 Science Fair. Cafe Martin supplies ample amounts of coffee. The Old Stone House has 3 custom, extra-sturdy bins and started receiving material in our educational Farm garden in May 2014 from the park Slope Food coop.  Thanks to a grant from Citizen's Committee for NYC and major support from the Park Slope Food Coop without whom this would not have been attainable. Special thanks to our designer/carpenters Lloyd Hicks and Tom Twente and to Joe Holtz and Phil Collosi at PSFC.

BASIC RECIPE for COMPOST

Ingredients:

Nitrogen

Carbon

Moisture

Air

Chop or shred all raw materials.

Mix the carbon and nitrogen together in equal parts. (Many books say 80/20 but you should tinker with the ratio).

Nitrogen is in all fresh organic material – green leaves, grass, weeds and food scraps. It is present in fresh coffee grounds and manure.  
Carbon becomes the dominat material when materials dry out: the nitrogen moves into the air and the materials become more carbon based as they dry.  Brown leaves, sawdust, paper and nut husks all are high in carbon content.
Nitrogen is often referred to as "green" material and carbon as "brown".  This is a general guideline and there are some exceptions.  Another way to think of it is that nitrogen is "wet" and carbon is "dry" organic material.

Use additional carbon material, as necessary.

Trouble-shooting Guide

Bugs = too much nitrogen or a wet condition.

Odor? not enough air. Not enough carbon.

No break-down?  Too much carbon or not chopped enough.  May need water.

Whole foods will remain whole for many months. Entry points for bacteria are key to decomposition.

What not to compost:

Anything greasy

Feces of animals that eat meat

Large items that do not break down: Wheat grass mats, flower arrangements, coconut shells

Starch – can be used but does not benefit the system.

Egg shells look like litter in the landscape, you may wish to grind them first.

Soil – use it in the landscape.

For urban systems, omit all meat and eggs. Most materials will decompose eventually.

To maintain hygienic systems in urban areas, be cautious and monitor your bin regularly.

Turning will speed the decomposition process and help control odor by introducing air into the system.

When you are finished adding material, always cover it with a layer of carbon material so that nitrogen material is not visible. This inhibits both odor and insect activity.

There is always another point to add – observe your system often!

THE SHORTCUT
An even amount of mixed browns and greens.
The more you chop and mix the faster it works.
No greasy stuff or starch.
Some moisture and air!

A square of cardboard on top helps to keep insects away.

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